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What is Ozempic used for and how does it work?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on July 7, 2022.

Official answer


Key Points

  • Ozempic (generic name: semaglutide) is medication used alongside diet and exercise to improve blood sugar control in adults with type 2 diabetes. Ozempic is not used to treat type 1 diabetes. You may use Ozempic in addition to other diabetes medications such as metformin or insulin.
  • Ozempic is also approved to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) events such as heart attack, stroke, or death in adults with type 2 diabetes and known heart disease.
  • The most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and constipation.
  • Ozempic is given as an injection under your skin once a week. Your health care provider can teach you how to do this yourself using the pen injector.

What is the mechanism of action for Ozempic?

Ozempic is in a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists (incretin mimetics).

Ozempic works by binding to GLP-1 receptors and stimulates insulin release from the pancreas when you need it. It helps to lower your blood sugar levels and A1C. It also helps to reduce the amount of sugar released by your liver and slows down food leaving your stomach to help prevent blood sugar spikes.

Will I lose weight with Ozempic?

Ozempic is not approved by the FDA for weight loss. However, when you use it for type 2 diabetes, you may lose weight.

In studies over 56 weeks, adults who weighed an average of 197 lbs (89.5 kg) lost 9 to 12 lbs (4 to 5.5 kg), although some patients gained weight, too.

How does Ozempic come at the pharmacy?

Ozempic (semaglutide), from Novo Nordisk, is available as pre-filled pens that deliver a 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg or 2 mg dose per injection, based on how your doctor prescribes it. It comes in a carton with one pen, and once you reach your regular maintenance does, each pen should last about one month.

Each carton also comes with the NovoFine Plus needles you will need for your injection.

What is the normal dose of Ozempic?

Ozempic is injected subcutaneously (under the skin) in the stomach area, thigh, or upper arm. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will teach you how to do this. Don’t inject it into a muscle or vein. Each pen is for use only by a single patient.

Ozempic injection is given only once a week on the same day of the week, at any time on that day. You might want to add this to your calendar. You can take Ozempic with or without food.

  • The recommended starting dose of Ozempic is a 0.25 mg injection once weekly for 4 weeks. This is only a starting dose and cannot be used long-term to control your blood sugar.
  • After 4 weeks, you go up to the 0.5 mg dose once a week for at least 4 weeks.
  • If you need more blood sugar control after 4 weeks, your doctor may decide to increase your dose.

Can I change the day of the week I use Ozempic?

Yes, you may change the day of the week you use Ozempic as long as your last dose was taken 2 or more days (at least 48 hours) before you make the change. Be sure to adjust your calendar.

If you miss a dose of Ozempic, take the missed dose as soon as possible within 5 days after the missed dose. If more than 5 days have passed, skip the missed dose and take your next dose on the regularly scheduled day.

Do I have to keep Ozempic in the fridge?

Once you get your Ozempic pen from the pharmacy, you should keep it in the refrigerator (between 36°F to 46°F / 2°C to 8°C) when it’s new and unused.

Once you’ve used it the first time, you can store your pen for 56 days at room temperature (between 59ºF to 86ºF / 15ºC to 30ºC) or you can still keep it on the refrigerator for 56 days. Don’t freeze the pen or use it if it has been frozen. Keep the pen cap on when it is not in use.

The Ozempic pen you are using should be disposed of (thrown away) after 56 days (whether kept in the fridge or at room temperature), even if it still has Ozempic left in it. Write the disposal date on your calendar to help keep track.

Do not store Ozempic pens directly next to the cooling element in your refrigerator. Keep Ozempic away from heat and out of the light. Don't leave it in the car where it can get too hot, either.

Bottom Line

  • Ozempic (semaglutide) is an injectable medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It is in a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists (incretin mimetics).
  • Ozempic can also lower the risk of a major cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) events such as a heart attack, stroke, or death.
  • It works in several ways: it stimulates insulin release to lower your blood sugar when you need it, helps to reduce the amount of sugar released by your liver, and slows down the rate that food leaves your stomach to help prevent blood sugar spikes.

This is not all the information you need to know about Ozempic for safe and effective use. Review the full Ozempic information here, and discuss this information with your doctor or other health care provider.


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